The Soft Pack Are Back, and Saxier Than Ever

Posted by Billy Gil, August 31, 2011 12:51pm | Post a Comment
The Soft Pack were set to play Sunset Junction last weekend. That didn’t happen, but the L.A. by way of San Diego band did set up for a surprise backyard show in Highland Park with Devon Williams in an awesome D.I.Y. way that made Sunset Junction’s absence less of a bummer. With the addition of a saxophone player that also played on their upcoming new album, The Soft Pack sounded stronger and more focused than ever before, honing their garage rock into perfect-summer-day surf rock. I chatted with drummer Brian Hill about the changes the band has made over the years, from their first album, as The Muslims, to 2010’s self-titled album, to now. Bonus: Free download of "Extinction" by The Soft Pack recorded live at Amoeba.

PST: Your guys’ transition from the Muslims to The Soft Pack across the two albums saw you guys employing a cleaner sound with more hi-fi production. What can you tell me about the new recordings so far?

Soft Pack Brian HillHill: So far, we've got a little more than half of the new record written and recorded. We went into a nice studio again, so the hi-fi sound is still a factor. We've gotten a lot more into doing actual tricks and production as well, overdubbing a lot of cool keyboard, sax and percussion tracks. That's kind of been the coolest part for us this time around.

PST: Are you playing any of the new songs live? What are some new songs we should look for in your live sets?
Hill: Actually, the new set is going to have about six or seven new songs in it. We're trying to get them down, so they don't sound like utter garbage. Also, we'll be bringing our friend Tony out on the road with us to help play sax, keys and extra guitar. We're trying to step up our game as much as possible for the next record. You gotta keep yourself entertained as well.

PST: How complete is the new album? Do you already have a name for it?

Hill: We don't have a final name or real concept behind the new album yet. Matt, our singer, really likes the word “Flamingo,” and that might make an appearance somewhere in there. It's a great word, phonetically speaking, so I'm in. We still need to write and record maybe four tracks, but we've all been working both independently and together on the writing for this one.

PST: I really liked the song “Mexico” on the last album. Was that song sort of a diversion, or does it point to a new direction?

The Soft PackHill: "Mexico” is one that I love playing. Stylistically, it was so weird to us to put that on the record at first, but now it seems like no big deal. We've come to the realization that no matter how "weird" we think we're being, we aren't that weird at all when it comes down to it. I guess it felt like a bit of a risk because it's so much more mellow than the rest of the songs. We're definitely interested in getting deeper into that territory though. Fear not though, there are riffs for days on the horizon.

PST: Explosions in the Sky still gets shit about their name. Do you guys still get bugged about having been called The Muslims?

Hill: Yes. We seriously have gotten asked why we changed our name in 99% of all interviews we've done since we became The Soft Pack. It has become a bit of a burden, but I suppose it'll always just be part of being in this band. We've now been Soft Packers way longer than we were called the Muslims, but I doubt we'll ever fully shake our checkered past.

PST: You guys came along at a time in which people were sort of done with garage rock or rock ‘n’ roll. Now it seems to be doing quite well again, at least in the underground sense. Do you guys stay aware of those kind of trends or have you just tried to do your own thing?

Hill: Garage rock has certainly become a thing again within the last couple of years. Personally, I feel like our last album was a departure from that world. Our new stuff is getting even further away from the garage sound as well. I feel like we've always been inspired by different stuff, so we try to do our own thing with whatever we write. Trends don't really inspire the output of the band, in my opinion. We like to know what's going on around us though simply as dudes who are obsessed with music.

PST: Aside from your hilarious Twitter, I found precious little about you guys online since the release of your last album. Do you guys try to go with a "less is more" approach to releasing music and making indie headlines, or was there just not much to report?

Hill: Matty, our guitarist, is responsible for about 95% of the Twitter stuff. I'll pass along the compliment (laughs). I've gotten really into posting dumb YouTube videos of guys who did too much ketamine and silly junk like that lately. For the majority of this year though, we've just been quietly writing and recording. Not too much exciting stuff to report. Certainly nothing scandalous to report either. I feel so boring (laughs). Controversy doesn't really seem to follow us. I guess that's a relief. We might make some videos with the remainder of the year and hopefully do some cool stuff that will keep people (and ourselves) entertained.

PST: For the last album, you guys did a rash of shows all over the area, including at local record stores. Any such plans in the works for the next album?

Hill: I really want to figure out a way to outdo the 10 shows in one day. Sean Carlson is the idea man behind that event, so we'll hit him up again, I'm sure. Whatever it involves, I hope nobody dies.

Upcoming Soft Pack tour dates:

-Aug. 31
Cellar Door
Visalia, CA

-Sept. 1
Crepe Place
Santa Cruz, CA

-Sept. 2
Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco, CA

-Sept. 4
El Dorado
San Diego, CA

-Sept. 7
Detroit Bar
Costa Mesa, CA

-Sept. 8
Velvet Jones
Santa Barbara, CA

-Sept. 9
Pappy and Harriet’s
Pioneertown, CA

Relevant Tags

Surf Rock (3), Sunset Junction (6), The Soft Pack (12), Soft Pack (2), Garage Rock (17), Interview (341)